Havilah, CA

Havilah School (1867)

Havilah School (1867)


Havilah served as the county seat of Kern County when the county was founded in 1866. In 1872 the county government was relocated fifty miles away to Bakersfield, where it remains today.

Havilah is considered a ghost town, despite that a few people still call it home.  A fire in the 1920s destroyed much of the town, now only two original structures remain from when the town was in its prime with a population of over 2,000 people, and the home of 187 businesses.  Along the road through town are several markers showing where buildings once stood.

In the 1960s two replica buildings were built, one was of the original Kern County Courthouse, and the other of the school. The replica courthouse serves as a museum and the school as a meeting place for the community.

The Havilah graveyard is on the north end of town, with roughly fifty marked graves dating from 1875-1910, and several unmarked.  A list of the known buried here can be found here.


Kern County Court House (1866)

Kern County Court House (1866) Havilah, CA


Old Havilah Cemetery

Old Havilah Cemetery


Interested in visiting this site?

BOOK OPTION: Havilah is featured in Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. III. Detailed maps, and GPS coordinates are included.  Order your copy now.



About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.


  • We just made the trip from Caliente to Lake Isabella and were stunned to find so much history in our backyard (we live outside Tehachapi in Stallion Springs). The drive was very pleasant and we were actually looking for Silver City, which is listed as a “ghost town”. Even though people live there, at least Havilah is a real place in the original place. Silver City is not a “ghost town” but a relocation of buildings on the outskirts of Bodfish. We loved the history of Havilah but refused to be duped by the Silver City folks…

  • Patrick, that drive is gorgeous and one of my favorites. It’s funny because I had made that trip many times and passed right by Havilah each time. If you enjoy this sort of thing, most of the places I’ve written about are within a few hours from the area that you live, so be sure to check them out.

  • Jim, The Old Havilah Cemetery is actually owned by the Catholic church, but they weren’t aware they still owned it and the land just in front of the cemetery until we brought it to their attention. The Catholic Archdiocese from Fresno checked their records and found this to be true, and the cemetery will be re-dedicated on June 7th, 2014 during the “Havilah Days” celebration as the “St. Joseph’s Cemetery” and the care and maintenance will be taken over by the church. The E Clampus Vitus group is assisting with the research, and hoping to prove that St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Havilah, CA was the very first Catholic Church in Kern County — and if this proves to be true, the ECV will hold another ceremony and will erect a monument and place a plaque to recognize this fact.

  • Jim,

    The County Seat was transferred from Havilah to Bakersfield in 1874 (they started the petition in 1872, but it wasn’t approved by the State until 1874) — My wife Jayne and I are members of the Havilah Historical Society, Kern River Valley Historical Society, and Kern County Historical Society.

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